People are relying on convenience stores more these days â not less â and this means greater opportunities for the industry's retailers and distributors to work together to better meet consumers' needs, E-Z Mart Stores CEO Sonya Yates Hubbard said in kicking off the 2011 AWMA (American Wholesaler Marketers Association) Show.
"We can cooperate, work, grow and profit together," the former NACS chairwoman and 2010 Convenience Store News Hall of Fame retailer inductee said during her keynote address. "Let's work together to sell what we've got, and find products to serve the needs that we aren't."
Foodservice is one area Hubbard pointed to as "an exponential opportunity for growth" for both wholesalers and retailers throughout the convenience channel. She said retailers such as E-Z Mart are looking for quality products that are easy to execute. "We are willing to partner with you â to do test marketing, sampling and develop products that work," Hubbard noted.
Another area of joint need, she said, is protecting tobacco sales â as the category continues to face increased excise taxes and government regulation. One of the ways E-Z Mart has been working to keep the tobacco category strong is by using an order compliance program provided by its wholesaler, Grocery Supply Co. The program has significantly reduced out-of-stocks, and E-Z Mart's cigarette and smokeless volumes are both up compared to industry averages.
"You can see cooperation's role in the success we've had in the tobacco category," Hubbard said.
She quickly added that cooperation can help in the area of government relations, too. Retailers and distributors need to work together on issues that impact the entire industry, such as debit and credit card fees; food labeling issues; ADA regulations; Ethanol mandates; Unionization; and healthcare.
"We can't assume someone else is going to fight the fight," she said.